Team17’s The Survivalists is a fun and clever take on the survival genre that is out now on PCs and consoles. We tested out the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
We used to think of Alien Breed and Worms when we heard Team17’s name, but in recent years they’ve really branched out with excellent games like Overcooked, Yooka-Laylee and The Escapists, although yes, another Worms game is coming soon as well. The Survivalists, in both name and visual style, plays off of their prison escape game The Escapists, although the setting is vastly different this time around.
Rather than being surrounded by walls you need to escape from, The Survivalists casts you as a survivor on a remote island you’re looking to get away from, with very little to help you when you start out. There’s the risk of starvation, but the island (and the surrounding waters) are also full of dangerous animals that can kill you if you’re not careful enough.
Things start out much like other survival games do, with resource gathering and the beginnings of a place to (temporarily) call home. Once you craft a few basis tools, you can make yourself a workbench, which unlocks access to new objects using blueprints that are available to you. On your first playthrough you’ll notice that you find things out as you go along, one creation leading to the option to craft another – but there’s no clear tech tree to help guide you in this process by letting you know which invention will lead to what.
Subsequent playthroughs will play out very different as a result, which made my first time with the game feel like a lengthy tutorial of sorts, where I was unsure how to manage my inventory and limited resources. Part of that is because you’re limited in what you can carry with you, and The Survivalists doesn’t feature a handy “pick up whatever you want and use it whenever you want” system like the one in Dragon Quest Builders. There’s a bit of strategy involved in making sure you venture out with what you really need, but backtracking does bring some frustrations with it – especially during that initial playthrough.
Things get progressively better though, and that’s because of monkeys. You read that right, monkeys. The island has a lot of them, and you can train them to help you out. They’re curious animals, and if you entice (meaning feed) them they will copy your next behavioral acts, this automating that process for you. This can involve bringing items from A to B for you, bringing supplies to you and crafting things for you, but you can also train them to attack the dangerous animals that lurk on the island.
I’m not traditionally a fan of survival games, but this process of automating things on the island really took a lot of the busywork out of the experience for me, allowing me to focus on my mission to get off the island rather than micro-managing everything around me. And yes, with the pixel art style of The Escapists, this is also a game that makes all of that look vibrant and fun – with a good soundtrack to boot.
The Survivalists needs a bit more polish and content though, with a few minor bugs here and there and a limited amount of content that makes a restart more appealing than the option to keep playing. The developers have already addressed these issues though, and will work on providing post-release updates using a roadmap they’ve already shared with players. As a result The Survivalists is fun to play with already, but might just get better as time goes on.